Resolving Conflict Peacefully, You Can Do It and Stop Fighting

May 29, 2010

Resolving Conflict

Nothing kills your sex life and hurts your relationship like fighting. It is imperative for the health and continuation of your relationship to learn to resolve conflict peacefully. I always tell my relationship and sexual coaching clients to go home and rent two movies and study them: THE BREAKUP and WAR OF THE ROSES. It is another example of art illustrating and imitating life. Now there is no such thing as a couple who are going to agree on everything. The key to a good relationship is being able to resolve those differences without hurting each other and inflicting damage on the relationship. Learning to resolve differences peacefully is one of the keys to having a great sex life.

There is another movie that I recommend to my clients entitled: Prince of Tides. Perhaps you remember a scene in the opening where the kids ran out of the house and jumped into the water to escape their parents arguing. They lived in an idyllic setting on the bay. They lived on the waterfront and escaped their parents yelling and screaming by jumping into the water and holding their breath under the water to not hear the screaming. These children had an escape but most children don’t. It is very abusive to fight in front of your children. They are helpless to do anything about it. It terrifies them. It is equivalent to torture for them. Never ever argue in front of the children. If the argument has to happen wait until the children are not around.

Resolve Differences Quickly

Let not the sun go down on your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 This passage is obvious and requires no interpretation. It is a simple command to resolve differences quickly. The reason for this should be obvious. You know when you and your spouse are fighting, the mood is toxic. It stresses and damages the relationship.

There is a syndrome called Fight or Flight Syndrome. This is a coping system in men and animals. What happens when you feel stressed and threatened, the body releases massive amount of adrenaline in your body. The purpose of this adrenaline is a simple survival mechanism. The idea is that you can use the adrenaline to run away from your opponent or predator faster than they can chase you and catch you. The other option is that you have so much adrenaline in you that you are able to successfully fight off an enemy or predator. The body is designed to releasing and dissipating this adrenaline by either fighting or fleeing. When you do neither it creates a tremendous amount of stress in you that is not good for the body. In fact this kind of unrelieved stress is one of the main causes of heart disease and heart attack. This is why the Bible is so clear and unequivocal about resolving conflict and resolving it quickly. Here is another scripture verse to back that notion up:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother (friend, wife, husband, other relative) has anything against you; Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Mathew 5:23-24

In other words it is so important to resolve the problem immediately because of how an argument can fester and get out of hand that Christ commands that you leave church in the middle of the service to go and reconcile the problem.

Couples often use anger to control and manipulate each other; usually one is stronger than the other and bullies their partner with their anger. This is unhealthy for the relationship and is inexcusable according to the following biblical passages:

Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Psalm 37:8
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding; but he that
Is hasty of spirit exalts folly. (foolishness) Proverbs 14:29
A wrathful man stirs up strife; but he that is slow to anger appeases strife. Proverbs 15:18
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty and he that rules his spirit than he that conquers a city. Proverbs 16:32
A fools lips enter into contention (fighting) Proverbs 18:6
It is an honor for a man to cease from strife (fighting) Proverbs
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire: so is a
contentious man to kindle strife (fighting) Proverbs 26:21
He that is of a proud heart stirs up strife: Proverbs 28:25
Be not hasty in your spirit to be angry; for anger rest in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
For God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain Salvation
By our Lord, Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 5:9
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. James I:19

So here are some scriptural warnings to you women in how you might sin in your anger. You certainly don’t want your man to be able to agree with the following scriptures in how you are similar to the women described:

The contentions of a wife are like a continual dripping. Proverbs 19:13 In other words like a continual dripping faucet.
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop (attic) than with a brawling woman in a wide house (mansion) Proverbs 21:9
It is better to live in the wilderness, (camping out) than with a contentious and angry woman. Proverbs 21:19
A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. Proverbs 27:18
For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear:…An odious (hateful) woman when she is married. Proverbs 30:21,23

We can all agree that men should not physically beat on women. Many times as indicated in the above biblical passages, women don’t have a problem beating verbally on men. The problem is, not only does it hurt your relationship but is very problematic for the husband for a number of reasons. By verbally beating on the husband, you cause the fight or flight syndrome to kick in. When the argument goes on, it makes it worse for the man and he gets more and more stressed to where he can explode and hit the wife. Your children are also stressed in this way. They feel the stress of that same Fight or Flight Syndrome and they are powerless to do anything about it. Continued stress of this type can cause heart disease and heart attack.

So the Bible is pretty explicit that hasty anger is not good for relationships and that anger needs to be controlled. Anger is not to be used to beat someone with or to get our own way by manipulating and intimidating them. However the Bible does not say that you can’t get angry. You can get angry, but you have to control the anger:

Be angry and sin not. Ephesians 4:26

So you see that anger is a human emotion, but you must control it, not use it as a weapon but express it so as to resolve the problem. Often when a person gets angry, they start yelling and raising their voice. This is simply a ploy to try and scare someone or attempt to manipulate someone. This is not an appropriate use or expression of anger. It also causes the Fight or Flight Syndrome that was previously spoken about. Invariably when one person yells, then the other person responds in kind which simply escalates the argument and gets it to the point where people are out of control. Here is what the Bible says about that:

A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life. Proverbs 15:4
Follow peace with all men. Hebrews 12:14

So how do you keep peace with your spouse when there is anger over an issue? The key is to keep emotion out of it. The first rule when your partner is angry about something is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN. You let them get everything out that is bothering them. Now the temptation here is to interrupt them and correct them over an issue that you feel like they are unjustly accusing you of. False accusations are not that abnormal as people tend to over-reach when they are angry. You wait until they are completely done before you try and correct them. The key is that you want the spouse to get out all of their frustrations. If you interrupt them, it just makes them madder. You keep quiet until they are done. Once you feel like they are done, you ask them if they are done. Sometimes, they are just taking a breath and re-grouping their thoughts. If they have more to say, listen. If it is a lot, take notes on what they are complaining about so you don’t forget or try to interrupt them to tell them you can’t remember everything that they said. Once they assure you that they are done, then you ask them if it would be okay for you to repeat back the main points of their argument so that you are sure that you understand and don’t want to forget anything. Usually they will be tickled to do that. Once you have re-stated the case, ask them if this is everything that they talked about. Once they have agreed that you have all of their points. You then go to the next step. The next step is to ask them: “in what way can I fix this and make it right? There is nothing to argue about with this point. They will usually have an idea on what you can do to make it right and they will tell you. You can then go back and correct what you feel like the unfairly accused you of. You avoid sarcasm and raising your voice, you simply quietly state that you disagree with the point that you feel like they unjustly accused of. Now if what they are asking for is unreasonable, you counter offer and suggest that you feel like that what they are asking for is too much but you are willing to counter offer a solution. You then can begin negotiating the solution to the problem. If you can take the anger and attacks out of the argument and make it about problem solving, it is much easier to resolve.
These notions are reinforced by the following scriptural mandates:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Math 5:5
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God of great price. I Peter 3:4
To speak evil of no man, to be not brawlers, but gentle, showing meekness to all men. Titus 3:2
And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. II Timothy 2:24
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. James 3:17-18

All of these scriptures are designed to counteract and overcome the natural man and our sinful tendencies. I present the following techniques to help you follow these scriptural principles in real life.

Negotiating A Settlement

There is a good way to negotiate. You can say: “alright on a scale of 1-10 how do you rate this?” If your partner says for them it is an 8 and for you it is only a 4, you agree to give them their way. Again this is just about problem solving rather than attacking each other. You can always propose an alternative solution.

Agree To Disagree

There are times that you are just diametrically opposed to their proposed solution and the two of you can’t reach an agreement. You could start beating on each other emotionally or you could “agree to disagree”. There is nothing wrong with that. In this way, no one is wrong, you are both convinced that you are both right but neither party will concede. Just agree to disagree.

Flipping a Coin To Resolve the Argument

If negotiating has not worked and the person is still adamant that they want a solution and agreeing to disagree is not working, the Bible has a solution: “The lot causes contentions to cease and parts the mighty.” Proverbs 18:18.

When getting to a solution is imperative and neither side will budge then the only peaceful solution is to settle it by a flip of the coin. Casting lots was a dice game, but a modern day corollary would be a flip of the coin to settle the issue. You both have to agree and stick by it.

And Jesus said: Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Mathew 5:9 Due to the sinful nature of man, we have a natural predilection to fight among ourselves. Being a peacemaker contributes positively to society at large and families in general. Will you endeavor to be a peacemaker in your own home? And a further biblical note:

If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 You can’t make anyone do right, but you can control how you react and what you put into the relationship. Are you doing everything that you can in your relationship to live peaceably with your spouse? Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:9. So women, you don’t give your husband sex, is it any wonder he is not giving you romance?
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers…Let all bitterness, and wrath an danger, and clamor and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be you kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another; even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29,32-32 This is a wonderful model for living in a marriage relationship. How can you find fault with this biblical model? Can you honestly say that if you lived by this model that your marriage would not be much better? Continuing in the same vein: But now you also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth…Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do you…Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as it is fit in the Lord. Colossians 3:8,13,18.

Now sometimes there is a marked difference in maturity with one partner over another. This can be problematic in a marriage relationship. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

Leave the House For a Cooling Off Period

If you are faced with a partner that yells and gets verbally abusive and won’t be calmed down and this is habitual, you have to make a change. You can’t force the person to behave appropriately. What you can do is to remove yourself form the situation. You simply go get your keys and get in the car and leave for several hours. Don’t answer your cell phone or texts from the person demanding that you come back. After several hours, you come back home and tell the person that you will talk if they are willing to talk to you without verbally abusing you and yelling at you. If they start in again, you simply leave again and stay overnight somewhere if necessary. It is not likely that you will have to do this more than 3 times and the person will realize that you are no longer going to put up with the abuse. If you don’t take a stand and make it stick, the abusive person will continue the abuse.


This is an oriental practice where respect is expected and honored. It is highly frowned upon to do or say anything that would cause embarrassment or humiliation for another person. We don’t have this level of gentility in our western culture. We should learn this technique and practice it. You should follow the physician’s vow: “First do no harm”.

Rules For Fair Fighting
1. Never argue in front of the children, it harms and scares them.
2. Don’t ever hit your spouse.
3. Don’t call your spouse names, it is abusive.
4. Don’t attempt to get your way by bullying your spouse.
5. Don’t with hold sex to get your way.
6. Do not scream at your spouse.
7. Do not interrupt; it is disrespectful, listen until they are done.
8. Do not take revenge for perceived hurts.
9. Develop a peacemaking attitude with questions like: How can we resolve this?
10. Don’t give people the “silent treatment”. It is revenge and it is emotionally abusive.

When there has been hurt feelings, the best thing that I recommend to my clients is to claim that old playground cry: “A do over” Admit that you have both made mistakes and have both hurt each other and mutually agree to a do over with a fresh page or fresh start. Vow to attack the problem and not the person. Collaboratively work on solving the problem while maintaining respect for your partner.
When you can’t resolve the problems between the two of you then seek out the services of a mediator, or a marriage coach.
Avoid marriage counselors like the plague. They have a horrendous 75% failure rate. That is a whole other subject.

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